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Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard Spark Celtics in Game 2 Win over Pacers

BOSTON — As five Pacers defenders lined up above the free throw line, Payton Pritchard snuck behind them. It took the Celtics a moment to notice, but Derrick White looked up and saw his teammate standing in the corner.

“I was watching film,” Pritchard said this morning. “Usually I’m really good at crashing the glass. Didn’t really have much of that. Some defensive lapses at times, jumping at pump fakes, giving up driving lanes, bad close-outs. Just uncharacteristic plays by myself. I look forward to redeeming myself tonight.”

It also took some time for Boston to string together an extended run to completely put away the Pacers for the first time in the series. Even the largest Celtics runs inspired an Indiana response, especially as Rick Carlisle hemorrhaged timeouts from the sideline through the first two games. Pritchard’s 5-0 run, which continued when he dribbled into a layup off the glass on the following possession, vaulted Boston ahead 89-76 in an eventual 126-110 win.

It wasn’t the first time the Celtics led by double-digits.

The opening minutes of Game 2 almost perfectly resembled Game 1 save for the runaway Celtics run to start Tuesday’s win. That came at the beginning of the second when Boston went small following Luke Kornet’s left wrist strain. Oshae Brissett entered for his first minutes (+11 in his first stint) of the playoffs while the Celtics stopped the first eight Pacers attempts in the frame, mostly funneling them into the paint. Boston forced 10 first half turnovers, slowly trying to wean Indiana down from a 58% start from the field in the first.

On offense, the Celtics grabbed 10 offensive rebounds on 27 misses before halftime, Brown pouring back a third-chance bucket following Sam Hauser’s miss to spark a takeover quarter. Brown reached 14 of the team’s 24 points late after Indiana answered Boston’s 17-0 run to open the frame with a 7-0 run of their own. Pascal Siakam started the game 12-for-14, relentlessly attacking Al Horford and Boston’s interior while Jayson Tatum started 2-for-8, mostly deferring to Brown as he heated up. He took a Derrick White block on Andrew Nembhard coast-to-coast, following that make with a pair of driving layups to put the Celtics ahead again — by 13.

Carlisle called timeout, and a composed Siakam hit a layup, a leaner over Jrue Holiday and drove past the entire Boston defense in their low point on that end before halftime. The Pacers closed 8-1, and stayed within six points.

That’s how the game began too, Boston and Indiana trading 11 straight baskets early before Myles Turner committed back-to-back offensive fouls, sitting down early and cooling off with 0 points in the first half. Siakam, Nembhard and TJ McConnell nonetheless led a 27-25 Pacers win in the first. Boston won the second, 32-24, but closed 15-24 after their 17-0 start.

The Celtics led 64-55 into the third despite it looking like Indiana might lure Brown into taking over Boston’s offense. He kept it moving after stumbling on the dribble a few possessions into the frame, finding White to his left for a three that sparked a 10-point quarter for the latter. Boston finally stopped Siakam inside, who twice tried to lay the ball up at the rim.

Aaron Nesmith swooped in for an offensive rebound and got fouled, but a challenge revealed Nesmith pulled Tatum’s shoulder before Tatum slapped Nesmith’s arm. A third foul landed on Nesmith instead of Tatum, and Tatum stepped out of timeout with a rolling dunk, pull-up two and feed to Brown in the corner for three to maintain a nine-point lead. Tatum also moved onto Siakam defensively, forcing him to kick out a pass to McConnell that Brown blew up and took home for a three-point play. One day after being left off the All-NBA teams, Brown received MVP chants from the crowd.

“I don’t have to (talk to him),” Mazzulla said pre-game about the snub. “He’s a very mature guy. So I don’t have to do that. He has a great outlook on life, he knows what’s important and what’s not and he works really hard. He knows who he is as a person and a player … this is a group of guys that just want to win … everybody wants to win until it’s really time to do whatever it takes. Up until this exact point, everybody on our team has put together the physical, the mental approach toward doing every and anything to give us the best chance to win … screening, passing, rebounding, defense … that should be the biggest thing.”

Brown’s drop-off pass to Brissett produced the latter’s first real playoff points before Pritchard powered the Celtics ahead by 13 again. This time Indiana had no answer. Pritchard chased down back-to-back offensive rebounds to begin the fourth that set Tatum up for a three-point play inside. White hit another three and Brown charged to the rim for two more, reaching 40 points on 14-for-27 shooting, saving the Celtics for second straight night and sending fans to the exits early for a different reason.

By that point, Nembhard and Tyrese Haliburton (leg) had left the game. Game 3 takes place on Saturday at 8:30 in Indianapolis.

Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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